Before I talk about the junior year I thought I’d put out a little information about the commitment, because the junior year is the latest a cadet can wait to make a commitment. The commitment is often one of the first questions prospects and parents ask about, so here goes. First remember that we are a very flexible organization and there are many variations on how to enter, and what you are signing up for but this is fairly simple and straightforward.
You have no commitment unless you are getting paid so unless you are on scholarship, or contracted there is no commitment. That means if you aren’t sure whether being an Army Officer is for you, take the class and make an informed decision!
Any time you join the military you are signing up for 8 years. When that recruiter downtown tells you that you are enlisting for 3 years to repair HMMVWs or play the oboe in the Army Band, there are 5 more years on the backside of that enlistment where you will be “on a list”. Being “on the list” is called being in the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR). In the old days being on the list wasn’t a big deal, but during the current conflicts members of the IRR were called back to active service (I was one of them). It’s not a big deal, and it’s not a trick or some nefarious plot, it’s just not something that is mentioned up front and it is usually not an issue.
OK, so if you contract you are agreeing to make yourself available for some type of service for the next 8 years. There are basically 2 flavors, and two variations of commitment. Whether you contract as a freshman, or junior it is still one of 4 options.
Scholarship – if you receive scholarship benefits (4 year, 3 year, 2 year, or 1 year retention) you are committed to serve on active duty for 4 years, OR serve in the National Guard or Reserves for 8 years. If you serve on active duty the balance of your 8 years can be in the IRR, or you can choose to continue to serve in the Guard or Reserves. Nothing is stopping you from serving beyond your commitment (other than your fitness for duty), and there is nothing like reenlisting for officers, so you keep going until you have fulfilled your commitment, retire, or get tired of serving. SO TO RECAP – SCHOLARSHIP = 4 ACTIVE OR 8 GUARD/RESERVES.
Nonscholarship – If you do not receive a scholarship you can still enroll in ROTC and complete the training and commission. You will have less of a commitment, and you will have received fewer benefits (notice I said fewer, not no benefits). If you contract in your sophomore or junior year you will serve 3 years on active duty or 6 years in the guard or reserve. Again, you can serve the balance of your 8 years in the IRR, or continue to serve in the Active/Guard/Reserve forces until you fulfill your 8 years. When I say you will receive less benefits, you still receive a monthly stipend when you contract, whether scholarship or nonscholarship. Not too many other classes on campus that pay you to take them. TO RECAP – NONSCHOLARSHIP = 3 ACTIVE OR 6 GUARD/RESERVE.
Why would someone participate without a scholarship? Some cadets are members of the Guard or Reserve while in college (we call them SMP cadets), so they are receiving other benefits instead of tuition or room and board. Some cadets just never qualify or receive a scholarship offer. We don’t have scholarships for everyone. I myself was a non scholarship commissionee many years ago.
This is the link to the Army ROTC scholarship contract. You can read it for yourself, and if you are resourceful you can probably find the contract for the non scholarship option. They are simple, and straightforward. There are not a lot of promises, and I will devote an upcoming blog on why I like it that way.
Hope this helps make clear what a cadet is getting her/himself into. In my opinion, it’s not a bad deal, no matter which option you end up with, including the option of walking away after making an informed decision…I’m all about informed decisions!